Creating A Will For Your Pet

Providing For Your Pet In Your Will

It’s no secret that we love our furry, feathery or scaly friends and the companionship they provide. More than 65% of Australians consider their dog or cat to be part of the family. However, for legal purposes animals are considered as ‘personal property’ so it is particularly important to make provisions in your Will for your pets.

FAQ’s For Pets

Question 1

What happens to my pet when I die?

There are three ways that you can provide for your pet in your Will:
  1. Gift your pet to a family member or friend  As with any other personal belongings, a pet can be gifted to a beneficiary of your choosing. This might be a family member, friend or even a charity. As with any other gift, the beneficiary has the option to refuse, so it is important you speak with your chosen beneficiary to ensure they are happy to accept your gift.
  2. Gift your pet with a lump sum of money If you are gifting your pet to a family member or friend you could consider making a conditional or unconditional gift of a lump sum to provide for your pet and/or as a token of thanks to the new guardian of your pet. This option may rely on you being able to trust that the funds you provide will be used to care for your pet, as there is no practical way the executor of your will can ‘supervise’ how the funds are allocated once provided to your pet’s guardian. 
  3. Gift your pet with an established trust In usual circumstances a trust imposes an obligation on one party (the trustee) to hold property for the benefit of another party (the beneficiary). This can be extended to allow the trustee to hold property for general charitable purposes. While a pet is considered property and generally would not be able to benefit from a trust, the law has taken a somewhat liberal approach to the creation of trusts for the care of pets. While there are exceptions, the general approach to trusts for the care of pets is that provided the trustees are willing to carry out their obligations the Court will recognise the trust.
Question 2

What happens if I die without planning for my pet?

Under Australian law, companion animals are considered personal property. Just like any other personal item, your pets will be passed on to your beneficiaries. Your beneficiaries may however not wish to take your pet and so your executor may well be left with the practical difficulty as to what to do with your pet in those circumstances.

Question 3

What happens if I lose the capacity to look after my pet?

While a Will provides for what happens in the event of your death, you can also provide for a situation where you lose the ability to care for your pet. Your enduring power of attorney can be used to communicate your instructions regarding the care of your pet. In the event of a loss of capacity, your appointed attorney is able to make decisions regarding your property, finances, health care and personal care matters. By including instructions in your power of attorney relating to your pet you can provide your attorney with authority to fund the care of your pet, enter your home to care for your pet and, if necessary, make decisions regarding rehoming your pet.